“I am going to be completely honest with you,” sings Danish musician Helena Heinesen Rebensdorff aka Brimheim on her exquisitely tender track ‘favorite day of the week’. It’s a simple enough statement, but she delivers it with startling conviction through her crystalline vocals and considered instrumentation. It’s this candid, yet tentative approach that makes listening to her debut album, can’t hate myself into a different shape, such a cathartic, rewarding experience. The follow up to her 2020 EP, Myself Misspelled, her new record is a poignant reflection on love in all its forms; romantic, platonic and the hardest type to articulate and master: self love.
Brimheim – a name chosen as a homage to her roots in the Faroe Islands, translating as “home of the breaking waves” – worked alongside producer Søren Buhl Lassen to create the sublime sounds on her new record, which she mined from a “deep depression hole” during a global pandemic. Despite the raw and confessional nature of her music, the record is peppered with self-effacing humour and a strong sense of self-awareness, proving that even in the darkest moments of isolation, there’s still room for light and laughter, even if it is occasionally through gritted teeth.
Moving between the boundaries of alt-pop, grunge, shoegaze and electronic music, can’t hate myself into a different shape is an intense, brooding listen. “I have noticed that I am see through” Brimheim observes on the opening track ‘heaven help me i’ve gone crazy’, a frank but gentle expression of what it feels like to “pick at the edges” of yourself when your emotions have been muted by depression. What follows is a beautifully bruising unravelling of vulnerability, with title track ‘can’t hate myself into a different shape’ setting the emotionally resilient tone that permeates the record.
Whether it’s her soft plea for reassurance that she’s not “a burden” on ‘baleen feeder’ (a nod to the filter-feeding system inside the mouths of baleen whales) or her disarming reflection on unconditional love for her wife on the atmospheric ‘lonely is beauty’ – “She is all I could need / Everyone else / Makes me feel lonely” – or a nostalgic ode to teenage friendship on ‘hey amanda’, Brimheim is a master at capturing a moment in its purest form. The exquisite, shadowy majesty of ‘poison fizzing on a tongue’ is a superb example of this, and further proof of her skill for transforming self-flagellation – “When I am finished resisting myself / I will be beaten senseless” – into poetic, exhilarating music.
The rawness of her lyrics on ‘straight into traffic’ are punctuated by fluctuating keys, as she resists the urge to give into thoughts of self harm, ending on a note of genuine hope: “Don’t give in, love / You’re more than enough.” On ‘this weeks laundry’ she extrapolates on the painful, yet absurdly relatable need to keep up appearances by “putting on foundation” for a “trip across the street” to disguise the fact you’re barely able to function. Brimheim pulls herself back from the brink each time, and even on the masochistically titled closing track ‘hurting me for fun’ – where she is pulling herself up “by my hair” – her self-effacing tendencies blossom into acute and astoundingly accurate observations of the effects these emotions can have on the human condition.
“I felt like I’d been in this black muddy place, not able to see anything and kind of drowning,” Brimheim revealed to us in an interview about creating the songs that formed can’t hate myself into a different shape. Carving her own path out of a deeply vulnerable state, she has managed to craft a stirring, intricately observed collection of life-affirming songs that chime with relatable melancholy, and that will undoubtedly provide comfort for listeners who may be living through a similar experience.
Brimheim’s debut album can’t hate myself into a different shape is released via W.A.S. Entertainment on 28th January. Pre-order your copy here
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Photo Credit: Hey Jack